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A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Darlene Cohn

I’m always interested in the people that I interview for the Life in the Spotlight segments. Who wouldn’t be, really? The people within the words I write are trailblazers, selfless caregivers, go-getters and trendsetters. But the articles never do them justice (though I do try hard) because their larger-than-life personalities and even bigger hearts can only be fully experienced by meeting them and seeing the good that they do. One such person, Darlene McCarty Cohn, is a joy to know. You usually find her in Blackbird Café chatting genially with strangers and friends alike. If you haven’t met her, you should. She is A Valpo Life in the Spotlight.

Cohn was born Binghamton, NY and she was raised…everywhere. Cohn’s family moved all over the United States when she was growing up. She also attended multiple colleges and ended up with an associate’s degree in Communications, a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in English and another master’s degree in Teaching. Here is one educated lady.

With all that schooling, Cohn decided to continue with education –as a high school teacher.

“I really loved teaching. It became clear after I started my master’s program that it was something that I was really going to enjoy,” Cohn said.

She and her husband, Jesse Cohn, whom she met at a coffee shop (which could be a reason why she is so fond of coffee shops) moved to St. Louis, MO where she taught high school.

“Cafés are always a great place to meet people, and they’re a great way to get a sense of what the community is like. It’s a wide cross section of people so you can meet your husband in a café,” Cohn said with a smile. “And you can meet all sorts of people who have different interests and talents. Cafés have always sort of been my touchstone within a community.”

After they got married and Mr. Cohn received his doctorate, he applied for professorial jobs all over the country. PNC snatched him up and that is how the Cohns came to Northwest Indiana. When they first moved to Valparaiso, which was about thirteen years ago, it was not as developed as it is now. They would drive to Merrillville to the Barnes and Noble bookstore that is no longer there today to spend time in that café. This is how she obtained her job at the Valparaiso Barnes and Noble. She worked there and taught English at PNC until she became pregnant with her lovely daughter, Rosa, when she left the bookstore and taught full-time.

Now Cohn is taking a different path: social media. She is helping small local businesses take care of their online marketing options like building a website, running Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and synching up with other parts of their marketing plan. Click here to view Cohn’s website, and be sure to “Like” D. Cohn Communications on Facebook. 

“This sort of started organically. In talking to friends that I met at Blackbird, I found that when they spoke to me about their businesses, they said that social media was something they were unfamiliar with. They knew that they needed to do it, but they weren’t doing it. My friends had Facebook pages for their businesses but weren’t using them and they knew that people were using their mobile phones more and more to learn about business but they weren’t sure what to do about it. So they knew that a web presence was crucial but they didn’t know where to start,” Cohn said. “I realized that they needed help and in the beginning I just offered to help them. I wasn’t thinking in terms of business, I was just trying to help my friends. There is a huge need for this.”

Cohn is right. Social media is becoming the sole means of communication for some businesses and individuals. Those who aren’t quite online savvy get nervous when using it and often give up and get left behind. Cohn is seeking to change that. There are businesses out there that need to stay afloat, and she is here to help them. She loves her community.

“Of all the places I’ve lived, the sense of community is way stronger here than anywhere else," Cohn said. "Here, people know each other and talk to each other. When we moved here it was a lot quieter. The downtown is being revitalized and there’s no denying that there have been huge changes to the community. I think that the Central Park Plaza is one of the best things to happen to Valpo. Ever. I’ve had some of the best conversations with parents at the Plaza while their kids played in Splash Pad. People are really friendly. I love that. People are really willing to help each other here and you don’t find that in many other communities.”

She gets involved in other ways. Over the years Cohn has helped to grow the literary culture in Valpo. She started a writing group called Blank Slate Writers Group, she was involved in a poetry workshop for teens at PNC called Slam Camp, she lead a poetry reading at Blackbird Café, and she was part of Valpo Reads a Book for a while.

She spends as much time with her daughter and husband in her free time. She also likes to read and write.

Any advice that should be presented to the readers?

“You have to have faith in yourself. Period. You have something to offer, you have talents, and you are good at something. Whatever it is, find a way to do it. There are ways to integrate any passion at all into something you love to do. So believe in yourself and trust in your passions,” Cohn said. “And don’t be intimidated by other people. A lot of people are scared that they’re going to look stupid or they’re not going to succeed. That fear comes from the inside and not the outside.”

Do you see now why she’s worth knowing? If ever you go into Blackbird Café and she is there, be sure to introduce yourself to Darlene McCarty Cohn. Your life will be that much richer because of this Valpo Life in the Spotlight.

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